“Assholes,” Jason muttered as he watched three frat boys wreck the snow sculptures in front of the art building. Well, he assumed they were frat boys. One wore a hoody with the Theta Chi letters on it, and to the best of his knowledge fraternity types didn’t generally hang around with non-fraternity types.
The elaborate snowmen they were currently destroying had started to appear right after the first real snow of the season – two whole feet! – and he’d been utterly captivated by them. His own snowmen had never been half so cool growing up. Because these weren’t just snowmen, they were masterpieces. It sucked major that he’d never been able to catch the artist at work.
And now, coming back late from his student-teaching job in the computer lab, he was witness to the destruction of the sculptures by Stupid Drunken Frat Boys. It wasn’t right – whoever had been making them obviously cared a lot. You didn’t do stuff like that with snow just for kicks.
“That’ll teach him,” one of the guys said to his brothers, who laughed and drunkenly agreed with him. He shoved the head off a lovingly made female, and then set to work destroying her body. Various props were knocked off and lost in the snow.
Jason bit his lip, “Hey!”
Three heads swiveled to look at him, “What do you want, geek?”
Jason fought not to roll his eyes. Honestly, did they think that was an insult? Well, they were Greek boys. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“None of your damn business. Fucking get lost.”
Whatever Jason might have said next, never got said. From inside the art building a figure came dashing out, a blur of black as he launched himself at the nearest vandal. “Get away, get away!” But the slender man was no match for the heavier builds and greater strength – not to mention numbers – of the three.
“Fuck this,” Jason muttered. “Should’ve done it to begin with.” Reaching into his dark green parka, he whipped out his cell phone and flipped it open, cycling through the saved numbers for campus security. A couple of minutes later he flipped it closed, “Hey, meat-for-brains!” Three heads turned to look at him. “You’ve got two minutes before security arrives to bust your asses.”
“What the fuck ever-” but even as the apparent leader spoke, the headlights of a familiar SUV appeared on the road. The three jerks scrambled, leaving their victim cursing in the snow.
Shoving his phone back in his pocket, Jason dashed toward the unfortunate young man. “Hey, man. Are you okay?”
Instead of answering, the other man fumbled in the snow to regain his footing. Jason gripped his arm and helped him up. On his head, the guy’s black watch cap had been knocked askew. He righted it, then began looking around in the snow.
Jason frowned, confused, until he spotted the black scarf and mittens lying amidst the white. He retrieved them and handed them over, just as two men in campus security jackets approached them. “Who called?”
“That’d be me,” Jason replied.
“What’s going on?”
The unknown man in black remained stubbornly mute, as Jason set about explaining what had happened.
One of the security officers looked at the young man, “These were your snowmen?”
“…Yeah,” the young man spoke at last. “Final project.”
“Any idea why they might’ve done this?”
“I pissed them off in class earlier today.”
Neither officer seemed terribly surprised, “You know who they were then? I think we have a pretty good idea anyway. The three from Theta Chi, right? At least this time you got a witness.”
The young man nodded, and added the professor and class.
“All right. We’ll look into.” The officer winked, “Figures it’d be you again, Calvin. Now both of you get back to your rooms, it’s too cold and too late to be wandering around outside. And be careful.”
“Yes, sir.” Jason and Calvin responded.
Calvin immediately turned back toward the art building, “I left my books and stuff inside,” he explained. “Let me get them and I’ll head back.”
“I’ll go with you,” Jason said.
The officers hesitated, then nodded and made their way back to their car. “Make it quick, don’t linger.”
Inside, the two young men stamped their boots and shook off what snow had accumulated on their jackets. Then Calvin surprised Jason by unzipping his black ski jacket and hanging it up along with his mittens, scarf and watch cap.
Jason’s mind was torn between “What is he doing?” and “Whoa, damn”
He settled on the ‘Whoa, damn.’
Calvin was hot. His hair wasn’t the definite yellow that Jason’s was, but a dirty wheat blonde – and messy as all get out. Most likely the brief fight in the snow and the watch cap had disheveled it. Jason thought it would be a shame if he ever neatened it – it looked good messy.
He was skinny as anything. Suddenly Jason felt positively overweight, even though he knew he wasn’t. The black jeans seemed barely capable of staying on the guy’s hips, and even though he wore a red t-shirt over a long-sleeved black T you still could see the shape of his chest. His lips were turned down in a strange sort of pouty frown, and he had one of those faces girls described as “boyish and cute” that sent them into giggles whenever he smiled.
Though it didn’t look like Calvin smiled a whole lot. Jason wasn’t sure how he knew that, but he felt pretty positive that was the case.
With his own yellow-blonde hair neatly combed, and wearing jeans and a college sweatshirt that were both too big for him, Jason felt every inch his geeky self next to the amazing art student – at least he assumed he was an art student. Which reminded him, “So you’re the one who made those sculptures?” He discarded his own winter gear as he spoke, then followed Calvin down the hall to the elevators.
Calvin looked at him, as if confused by the question. “Yeah.”
For reply, Calvin just shrugged.
Jason frowned. “Hey – shouldn’t you get those looked at? Don’t they hurt?” he indicated the bruises already discoloring Calvin’s face – one high on his left cheek, and another near his jaw. He reached out to stop him, startled when Calvin jerked roughly away.
“I’m fine,” Calvin said sullenly.
“Man, you were just pummeled by three guys. I seriously doubt you’re okay.”
“Eh. They couldn’t really get a good hit in what with the snow and ice and all. Plus I’ve got lots of practice blocking and dodging.” Calvin frowned, “Why are you following me?”
“Because I wanted to ask you about the sculptures. That and I seriously doubt the three blockheads have gone home like good little boys.”
Calvin nodded, mashing the elevator button. “They’re probably waiting at the end of the block. They always hide behind the bushes there, because you can’t see anyone who’s behind them and that’s where I have to walk to get home.”
“Those guys really don’t like you, do they?”
They stepped onto the elevator as it chimed and opened. Calvin hit the button for the third floor, “They’re morons.” The ghost of a smug smile flitted across Calvin’s lips, “They don’t like when I point that out in class. Especially since they can never quite figure out how I do it without actually saying the word moron.”
Jason grinned, “That’s great. What in the heck are they doing in your art classes anyway? A project like that, you’re what? A senior?”
“Junior. And I’m not in the class – I help teach it. It’s an intro class so there are always tons of non-majors taking it for general credit. The professor was out sick today so…” Calvin shrugged.
“So they thought they could get away with bugging you more than usual. I see.”
Calvin stared at him a moment, and Jason blinked at how intense and focused his brown eyes were. Like they saw everything. Jason hoped that wasn’t true, because he was pretty sure Calvin wouldn’t like the direction of his thoughts. He stepped off the elevator as it chimed and opened, long legs carrying him rapidly down the hallway to the classroom where he’d apparently left his things.
Jason stood watching him a moment, distracted by the view, then scrambled to catch up. “So how long did the sculptures take you? How do you do it? Will you be able to fix them?”
Calvin paused in packing up his books to stare at him again. Jason fought not to squirm – that gaze was really something. “Do you really like them?”
“Hell yeah! I used to try to make snowmen like that all the time as a kid.” Jason grinned, “But I was never much of an artist. Computer geek through and through.”
“They’re not that hard to make,” Calvin said. “It just takes a long time, especially if the snow isn’t quite right. I was really lucky that the first snowfall was perfect. Of course now those asses have completely ruined it.” He raked a hand through his already messy hair. He moved to the windows that overlooked the front of the building, looking almost sad as he stared down at the ruins of his project.
“Will it take you long to repair them?”
“The way they went about it, I’ll just have to finish the destruction and start all over. They won’t look the same if I just fix them.” Calvin banged his head lightly over and over against the glass. “Bastards.”
Jason made sympathetic noises, recalling all too well the frustration he felt whenever Paige had decided it would be amusing to topple some of his creations. Of course generally he’d asked for it by putting something vile in her dresser or feeding one of her sweaters to Quincy, but it had been depressing all the same.
Calvin seemed disinclined to continue speaking, silently mourning his ruined sculptures. Jason let his gaze wander idly over the room – he’d never really been in the art building beyond attending the occasional lecture held in the large lecture hall on the ground floor.
Several paintings lined the far wall, from bizarre abstract works he rolled his eyes at to some tragic lake thing obviously painted by a girl, a few still life pieces – and he almost missed the one shoved into the corner.
Jason knew enough about paintings to realize this one still needed some shading and detail work, though at a glance it would probably appear done to most people. It was oddly cute, amidst all the more “serious” subjects being done by the rest of the art students.
It was an outdoor scene, a close-up of the trunk of a large tree, the ends of a rope ladder trailing down to end next to a beat up little red wagon; clearly whoever had owned it had used it enthusiastically. Sitting in the wagon was a worn and obviously well loved stuffed tiger. Scattered in and around the wagon were various items – a couple of sandwiches, a compass, some unfilled water balloons…it looked like a child had wandered away for a moment, leaving his toys to come back to. Jason looked for and didn’t find a name anywhere. Not that he would know the artist anyway.
Reluctantly he turned away from the painting, figuring he’d ignored Calvin long enough – and nearly collided with the other man. “Gah! Warn a guy when you sneak up behind him.”
Calvin just looked at him and let the comment pass. “You like that one?”
“Yeah, it’s awesome. Reminds me of when my friend Marcus and I used to play outside all the time during the summer. Though my mom killed me whenever I tore my toys up like that.”
“My mom never really noticed what I did to the wagon,” Calvin replied. “Me and Hobbes used to go riding down hills in the forest all the time. I guess she figured it was part and parcel of living where we did.”
“Oh,” Calvin’s cheeks turned pink, as he realized what he’d said. “The tiger – his name is Hobbes.”
Jason blinked, “You painted that?” He grinned, “Wow. What else have you done?”
“Umm…” Calvin seemed at a loss for words. “Not much,” he said quietly, almost bashfully. “Why do you care?”
“Uh…I just think it’s neat and all. I used to do this kind of stuff all the time as a kid. But I was never very good at it. Computers and stuff are more my thing. I always kinda wished I’d been a better artist.”
Calvin shrugged, “My dad thinks I should’ve gone into the sciences. He says I won’t get very far doing artsy stuff. But my dad is kinda old-fashioned about that sort of thing.”
“My parents are kind of the opposite. Well, my mom anyway. She’s a writer; she gets this confused look on her face whenever I try to talk about my classes. But she thinks it’s neat that I understand it. My dad just looks lost and says he has to meet someone for golf.” Jason grinned, “And of course my brother and sister just make fun of me. But I always get revenge.”
“You have siblings?”
“Yeah – one brother, one sister, both of them older. My mom says dad makes four children for her to take care of.”
That surprised a laugh out of Calvin, and Jason’s mind momentarily shut down. Smiles on Calvin were lethal to his brain functions.
“My mom mutters stuff like that about my dad occasionally. I think she’s happier now that we’re both out of the house a lot.”
“I know my mom is relieved we’re all starting to lead our own lives now. I’m the last one to go.”
“I’m an only child, so I’m the only one they had to get rid of.” Calvin abruptly turned and headed toward the desk, grabbing something from a drawer before striding to the window. Jason realized he’d grabbed a pair of binoculars.
“What are those for?”
Calvin adjusted the view, twisting so that he could look down the street. “Seeing if the meatheads are still there.”
“Yeah, and they look pretty cozy. I think they’ve figured out that I just hang around until they’re gone or I get bored waiting. It’s getting to be a contest, really.”
Jason’s brows lifted at that, “What’s the longest you’ve waited here?”
Calvin lowered the binoculars and looked at him, “During the summer I usually get stuck up here until about two or three. Once they waited until four.”
“AM?” Jason asked, stunned.
“Yeah,” Calvin’s look said ‘duh.’
“Why don’t you just take a different route?”
Calvin shrugged, “There is no different route. I live in that house where they hide in the bushes. And there’s no real back way, it’s up against the wall of another building. I have to go by those bushes to get home, and they jump me every single time.”
“So you’re just going to stay here all night?” Jason asked, dumbfounded.
“Yeah,” Calvin hunched his shoulders, defensive.
Jason made a face, “That’s a sucky plan.”
“I suppose you have a better idea?”
“Yeah, as a matter of fact I do.” Jason pulled out his phone again, and quickly related the problem to security. He flipped the phone closed and stowed it in his pocket. “See? Much easier?”
Calvin didn’t say anything, just glared at him and then stalked back across the room to get his things.
“Hey! You could at least say thanks.”
“For what? Causing me more problems?” Calvin paused in the doorway, looking as if he might say something more – but then just shook his head and vanished.
By the time Jason bothered to follow him, Calvin was gone. “Damn it.” He fidgeted with his glasses before donning his winter gear and settling his bag on his back. Heaving a sigh, he exited the building and slowly trudged his way back to his apartment.
But rather than go inside, he bypassed the window to his place and continued up the fire escape stairs to the roof.
He’d had his own place since first semester sophomore year, after the complaints against him had gotten so bad the college had all but thrown an apartment at him.
At least now he could experiment without upsetting someone. Even if it did get a little too quiet at times.
Jason jumped the last steps and landed hard on the roof, sneakers scraping in the rocks and grime scattered across it. With easy strides, he crossed the short distance to the opposite side of the roof. A dark green tarp had been spread across the top of the roof there, another tarp laid over what appeared to be a small but bulky object.
Whipping the tarp off revealed that it actually covered several small somethings – toy rockets that had undergone extensive customization. His first month there, Jason had been paranoid others would find and tamper with his favorite hobby. But by the third or fourth “incident due to miscalculation” they had decided it was best to avoid the roof. They’d also decided it was best to avoid Jason, which was why he took the fire escape coming and going.
No one there to pretend not to see him. At least they didn’t harass him like his dorm mates had.
Near the tarp he kept a small wooden box for tools and other miscellany, and from it he pulled a pair of binoculars. Moving to the edge of the roof, he focused them on the Theta Chi house. Though it was going on midnight, there was plenty of light to see by. The campus was never truly dark, especially on Greek Row where the campus officials had seen to it that as many streetlights as possible had been crammed.
Slowly, carefully, he analyzed the house through his binoculars, occasionally murmuring aloud as he worked through calculations and formulae in his head – he’d probably write it all out later, for appearance’s sake. People seemed more inclined to believe in his “miscalculations” when they could see his work on paper, even if they had no clue as to what they were looking at.
He was taking a closer look at the chimney when his cell phone went off. He looked away from the chimney to glance briefly at the caller ID – and grinned as he returned his eyes to the binoculars. He pushed the call button, “Hello?”
“YOU! YOU! YOU!”
“Oh, hey Paige,” Jason said with mild surprise. “What are you calling so late for?”
“You hired a stripper for my bridal shower!”
“Me? No. Someone called a stripper?” Jason said, sounding shocked and horrified. “Was he any good?”
“He was dressed as a storm trooper,” Paige said, clearly highly offended.
“Yeah, I had to pay extra for that. Can you believe that’s not one of their regular costumes?”
“You’re dead Jason. Eric’s mother nearly had a heart attack!”
Jason fought not to laugh gleefully. Paige always made it far too easy. “Really? Then you may want paramedics on stand-by for the wedding.”
“What?” Paige shrieked. “What are you going to do at my wedding? Don’t you dare do anything, Jas-”
“Gotta go, Paige. Take care – tell mom and dad hello for me.”
“Just you wait, Jason. You are so going to pay for this.”
“Bye.” Jason shut his phone off and began to laugh delightedly, not caring one whit if he woke someone up. At last his laughter faded, and he resumed his analysis of the Theta Chi house, triple checking his calculations before returning the binoculars to the box and grabbing his book bag.
It would be way too suspicious to do anything tonight. But lunchtime the day after tomorrow or so would be perfect. And oh, what a miscalculation it was going to be. He just needed to double-check a couple of things tomorrow and he’d be all set.
He lived in a corner apartment on the fourth floor of a rickety old five-story building, with easy access to roof, street and apartment thanks to the fire escape. Reaching the window, he undid the lock he’d put on it and dropped his bag through before sliding inside himself and closing the window behind him. And even though he’d left a table lamp on to avoid coming home to complete darkness, it couldn’t spare him coming home to an empty apartment. There was Quincy of course – who was currently dozing on the sofa – but it just wasn’t the same. Oh well – he’d get used to it eventually.
Immediately to his right as he stood with his back to the window was his desk – made to fit into the corner and half buried by his computer, accessories and various toys and action figures. Crammed between the desk and the door to his bedroom were two bookcases, over laden with textbooks, manuals, games, and CDs. More of the same was piled in front of the bookcases and around the desk.
In the corner to his left was his TV, with an old sofa, recliner and coffee table from his mom to make up the living room. A small kitchen was beyond that, the front door with a small closet, and the bathroom and bedroom to make up the rest of his apartment.
Suddenly feeling the exhaustion he’d been fighting, Jason discarded his parka and dragged himself to the bathroom. After spending nearly half an hour attempting to drown himself in near-scalding water, he felt a bit more revived. A can of soda and several cookies from his mother improved things further, which was a good thing, because no one else was going to pay his rent or for his books and rockets and all the rest. He had programs to write and games to debug, along with way too many papers to grade.
“Hey, dork! You forgot to wash your dishes again.”
Calvin narrowed his eyes at the Super Jerk at the far end of the hallway. “I did wash them. This morning.”
“Well, they’re dirty and filling up the sink. I guess maybe they used themselves?”
“I washed them. Go find the jerk who used my stuff and yell at him.” Mouth tight with anger, Calvin walked toward and then past his housemate – Jeff – just waiting for the Jerk to say anything else.
He didn’t, and Calvin gave a mental sigh of relief as he reached the stairs and headed up toward his room.
“Nice bruises, dork.” Jeff called after him.
Calvin kept his mouth shut, but made sure to slam his door as hard as possible before locking it behind him. “Asshole,” he muttered as he began to strip off his gear, throwing the jacket, gloves and hat in the general vicinity of his closet. He plopped into the small chair in front of his desk and woke his computer from sleep mode, skimming through various emails and grimacing at the one from his professor. He turned to sit sideways in his seat, staring without really seeing the painting he was working on in his room.
For his art major he had two final projects: to replace the classes he should be taking but wasn’t because he was in an accelerated program. One project was to be done in sculpture – the snowmen that the Assholes First Class has just demolished. He’d have to work double time now to make up for the loss. Especially as he was going to lose even more of his non-existent free time both avoiding them and exacting revenge. Bastards.
His second project was a series of paintings – three of them. The graduating seniors had been assigned the theme of “childhood” for their final projects, so that was what Calvin was stuck doing.
Which the other students were bitching about to no end. Calvin felt sorry for them. He’d begun actual painting on two of them – the one in the art building and one he worked on here in his room. The art building one was meant to be nostalgic, an image of some of his favorite things growing up – the tree house where they used to hide and water-bomb poor Susie; the wagon that had taken more abuse than a car in a junkyard, and of course Hobbes. He called it “The Days are Just Packed.”
The second painting was meant mostly to be funny, though he wanted people to feel a bit creeped out. It was only just barely begun, mostly just a sketch with some base colors laid in. The image was a close-up of a bed, the sheets and blankets bundled up into a lumpy ball in the top center of the image, with only the barest bit of foot and the tip of a black and orange tail peeking out.
Except for a large pair of yellow-green eyes underneath the bed, and a pool of something wet dripping from an unseen mouth. The eyes and the moonlight slinking in through the crack between curtains were the only things not going to be done in blacks, blues and purples. He was calling this one “Something Under the Bed is Drooling.”
He hadn’t started the last yet, because it was going to be the most difficult. So far it was only a rough drawing in his sketchbook – an image of Hobbes and him running helter-skelter through the backyard with masks, flags and a volleyball, using an old croquet set to construct an obstacle course that had only ever made sense to the two of them. This was also the only painting – the only anything – that showed his Hobbes, the way he saw the tiger growing up. “It’s a Magical World,” was its title.
Calvin shifted so he was sitting backwards on the chair, propping his chin on arms folded over the back of it, facing the bed and a small figure propped against the pillow. “So Theta Creeps trashed my snowmen. I really wish it was possible to just feed them to you.” He was silent a moment, “True. They probably do taste awful. Like beer and fat. Not very appetizing.”
Another pause, and then Calvin sighed. “It’ll take me forever to redo them all. I was almost done! And I’ve still got my English finals to work on.” He buried his head in his arms a minute, and then looked back up at the bed. “I guess I could just do a joint project – but I don’t want to. I want to do the snowmen. I liked the snowmen – those assholes. Lord knows nothing else could get them to do that much exercise outside a trendy gym. Besides…” he hesitated, “That guy really liked them. At least he said he did.” He frowned, “It means that maybe if one person besides my professor likes them, then maybe everyone will. And he liked my painting too.” Calvin’s cheeks turned pink, “It was cool. He didn’t laugh or anything. I kept waiting for it.” A pause, “No. I forgot to ask. And it doesn’t matter – I’m going to die tomorrow anyway. Professor McCarthy called in sick, and thanks to tonight’s stranger calling security on the Theta Creeps twice, I’m probably not going to be alive after class ends. If I make it through class.”
Calvin grinned suddenly, and it was all mischief and evil intent. “But hey – I can go down with a fight, right?” He sat up straighter, fisting his hands in anticipation, “They’ve got a booze fest coming up day after tomorrow. They’ll be so wasted and busy tormenting the freshmen they won’t notice the destruction to their water and electric until too damn late. I haven’t used my power tools once this semester – probably about time I fixed that huh, Hobbes?”
He fell suddenly silent, the gleeful grin fading from his face, head falling back down on his refolded arms. “I’m such a loser.”
“Whoa, slippery.” Jason rolled his eyes at himself, re-secured his grip on the uneven bricks, and resumed his slow, careful climb up the back wall of the Theta Chi house. An earlier examination had revealed no easier method by which to reach the roof, unless he wanted to try going inside, which was every kind of stupid. Not least of all because he didn’t want anyone to know he’d been there.
It would severely hamper the credibility of his “miscalculations” tomorrow afternoon to get caught today.
But getting caught was about as likely as his being invited inside for a drink. If you weren’t at an infamous Theta Chi party, you were hiding somewhere so you could lie later and say you had been. So no one who did happen to see him was likely to say anything. And security had bigger fish to fry than a moron scaling a two-story brick house in the middle of an icy winter night.
Well, 11:27. Not quite the middle of the night. And the party was scheduled to end at 1:00 am, so he didn’t have a whole lot of time to waste. Good thing he only needed a few minutes.
Jason froze in place as the window beside him rattled and banged, as if someone has fallen or been thrown against it. He waited, sighing softly as the noise ceased, and resumed climbing. Falling now would suck quite a bit, though there was enough snow that he wouldn’t really hurt anything. Maybe a few bruises, but he doubted even that.
Still, he let out a long sigh of relief when he finally scrambled up onto the roof. “Halfway there. The things I do to exact revenge, I swear.” He hummed the theme to a zombie movie he’d watched over the weekend as he stepped carefully over the slanted roof, up toward the chimney.
His humming faded from song to murmured thoughts as he turned on a flashlight attached to the front of his coat and examined the chimney with eyes and hands. “Hmm…stronger than I had thought it would be. Probably will have to increase…” his voice trailed off as his thoughts raced along, mentally making adjustments to the rockets he planned to use for the venture, altering the calculations he’d made the night before. He paused ah examined the last corner, the left side facing the street. “Bit weaker here…so if I aim…adjust the…hmm…” Satisfied with his findings, Jason slowly made his way back around the chimney and then slowly down the roof toward the place where he’d originally climbed up.
The sudden slamming open of the back door startled him, just as he was sliding off the edge of the roof to cling to the wall. With a faint cry of surprise, Jason lost his grip and plummeted down, landing with a hard ‘oof.’
On something that definitely was not snow.
Something that talked.
“Get off me!” Calvin hissed in outrage, though a tinge of fear lurked beneath it.
Jason blinked. Blinked again. He pushed himself up on his arms, still hovering over Calvin. “What are you doing here?”
“Huh?” Calvin stopped struggling to get free, finally realizing who had come crashing down upon him. “What are you doing here?”
“I asked first.”
“You just like to lay in the snow on Theta Chi’s lawn?”
Calvin glared, “You’re the one who knocked me down.”
“That’s only because-” he was cut off by Calvin’s hand on his mouth, as the other man held a finger to his own lips, warning Jason to stay silent.
Jason frowned behind the hand, but didn’t protest as the sound of voices drew near. He dropped back down, until he was flush against Calvin, and they were mostly hidden by the high snow.
Calvin’s breaths were white puffs of soundless air as they waited unmoving for the two voices to either approach and discover them, or retreat and leave them mercifully undetected.
Not that Jason thought he’d be able to move even if they were found. Calvin’s bare hands were still warm, as though he’d either just come outside or recently removed gloves. The fingers were slender, calloused in a way that artists’ hands usually weren’t. And Calvin was really really really close.
Anxious, flustered, Jason waited as the voices drifted closer, not hearing the slurred words, only listening for the sounds to go away.
Which, at last, they did, as the Drunken Theta Jerk convinced his girlfriend to go back inside. Jason sighed in relief behind Calvin’s fingers.
Calvin jerked his fingers away like he’d been burned, and Jason was forcibly reminded as to their positions – and scrambled madly to stand.
He’d barely moved away when Calvin rose, retrieved a large, black plastic case from the snow and took off like a shot across the backyard and through the hedges that lined the end it, cutting through to a quieter street of student housing.
Jason dashed after him, both of them moving until they were well away from the Theta Chi house. Panting, Jason reached out and snagged Calvin’s wrist – but immediately let go when Calvin whirled and tried to jerk away. “Sorry! Just wanted you to stop. Man, you can really book it when you want to. I walk fast but damn – I almost had to run to keep up with you. So what were you-” Jason stopped, and frowned, finally getting a close look at Calvin. “What happened to you?”
“Nothing,” Calvin said sullenly, and turned to continue on down the street. He spun around and jerked away as Jason again latched onto him – by the upper arm this time. “Leave me alone!”
“Okay. Sorry,” Jason looked unhappy. “I just wondered why you were around the Theta house. Is that why you have more bruises?”
Calvin shrugged, and responded in a mutter almost too low to hear. “They got me this morning before class. I was going to get them back tonight.” He hefted the case, which was obviously heavy, but said nothing more.
“But why’d they get you? Just because I…oh…” Jason looked abashed. “They got you because I called security on them twice.” He ran a hand awkwardly through his hair and fidgeted with his glasses. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay,” Calvin said, looking at Jason in mild surprise. “They probably would have just found another excuse if you hadn’t called. I’m used to it.”
“Why do you let them do it?”
Calvin stiffened defensively and once more tried to leave.
“Wait! Come on,” Jason sounded desperate and aggravated. “Why do you keep trying to rush off?”
“Why should I stay?” Calvin asked, looking and standing utterly confounded.
“Ah…” Jason looked briefly confused. “Don’t you want to know why I was on the roof?”
Calvin blinked, “Oh, yeah. Why were you on the roof?”
“Come with me,” Jason grinned, suddenly all mischief. “I’ll show you. It’s kind hard to explain without being able to show you.”
“Please?” Jason hoped he didn’t sound as desperate as he thought he did. But he couldn’t help but think – okay, hope – that Calvin might be a kindred spirit. Probably wishful thinking, but it couldn’t hurt. Or at least, he was used to the hurt.
“….Okay. I guess.” Calvin set the case on the ground and dug in the pockets of his ski jacket and pulled out gloves, which he quickly donned. Retrieving his case, he stood looking at Jason, brown eyes intent.
“Uh, right,” Jason half-muttered, suddenly remembering he was supposed to be leading the way and not staring at Calvin. He crossed the street as a car passed, cutting through yards to reach the main street, where they could walk straight to the back of his apartment building.
Calvin followed him in silence, biting his lip in thought as he regarded the lanky man in front of him. He had the build of someone who spent most of his time in doors, but wasn’t’ a complete vegetable. Which was interesting, because the guy struck him as a computer-type geek. He blinked, suddenly stopping. “Umm…hey.”
The other man stopped, and turned. “What’s up? We’re almost there, promise. It’s just a block more.”
“What’s your name?”
The man started to laugh, the sound of it especially loud in the dead, cold night air. “Jason Fox.”
“Oh.” Why did that name sound familiar?
“Nice to meet you,” Jason beamed. “Now come on – I’m cold.”
Calvin smiled, “It’s not that bad out here.”
Completely dazzled, Jason could only manage a nod as he struggled to remember how to move. Calvin was proving more difficult than even trying to teach freshmen basic physics. “This way.” He hesitated as they finally reached the building, conflicted as to whether it would be better to take the fire escape or actually use the main stairwell. He settled on the stairwell, as he realized he wasn’t quite ready to explain why he avoided most people to Calvin.
He opened the front door – like maybe only the second or third time he’d used it, not counting pizza deliveries – and flicked on the lights. “It’s not much. And really, what I want to show you is on the roof. I just figured you’d like to set your stuff down.”
“Do you have any roommates?” Calvin was looking around the apartment like a kid who’d just walked into a candy shop. “This place is great.”
Jason smiled hesitantly, “You think so? It’s not much…my mom gave me the furniture and fixed it up so I couldn’t ‘do too much damage’.” He rolled his eyes, “She’s still upset about the last time she gave me furniture.”
“What happened last time?” Calvin asked.
“Uh…” Jason adjusted his glasses. “I got carried away with an experiment and wound up setting it on fire. That was in high school, when they bought me a new bedroom set. It…” he grinned sheepishly. “The bed’s still okay – I’ve got it now. But the dresser and nightstand didn’t make it.”
Calvin looked impressed and amused, “Which one did you set on fire?”
“The dresser,” Jason grimaced at the memory. “The nightstand was a victim of super glue and Paige’s cashmere sweater. She’s still mad at me for that one. Even though I give her one for Christmas every year now.”
“Paige? A sister?”
“Yeah. A few years older – she’s getting married soon.” Jason heaved a long-suffering sigh, “She’s more impossible than ever to live with. I hope Eric – her fiancé – is up to the challenge.” He grinned, “And up to the fact that I’m not going to stop tormenting her.”
Calvin almost smiled, “Sounds like the way I used to terrorize Susie and Rosalyn.”
“Who are they?” Jason moved away from the entryway, leading Calvin to his living room. “Want something to drink?”
“Nah, I’m fine.” Calvin hesitated, but seeing Jason strip off his winter gear, gladly followed suit. “Susie’s a girl I grew up with. She goes to school up in Clarington.”
“The girl’s school?” Jason shuddered, “That place is terrifying.”
“That would explain why she fits in so well,” Calvin said dryly. “She’s the Princess of Terror.”
“Not the Queen?”
“No – that would be Rosalyn. She was my babysitter growing up.” Calvin’s eyes grew distant, as he relived memories. “We used to do our damnedest to kill each other, I swear. I was terrified of her, growing up.” He grinned briefly, “And I was definitely the most troublesome child she ever had the misfortune to baby sit.”
Jason laughed in delight, collapsing next to Calvin on the couch. “That’s awesome. Usually Paige or Peter – my brother – got stuck watching me, and that’s not as much fun as terrifying a total stranger. Oh – but my friend Marcus has four sisters. We used to terrorize them from time to time.”
“Yeah, he’s my best friend. Going to an IT school on the west coast,” he rolled his eyes. “Mostly because his girlfriend is going there for school. But he says he likes it so…” Jason shrugged.
They fell silent, neither quite sure where to go from there.
“So what did you want to show me?” Calvin asked at last.
“Oh! It’s up on the roof.” Jason jumped up, glad to have something to do, and grabbed a hooded sweatshirt before heading toward the window. Flinging it open, he grinned back at Calvin before clambering out and leading the way up the steps, their footsteps sharp and ringing against the all-but-frozen metal stairs. “This way,” he crossed the roof and stopped before the tarp, flinging it back with a flourish.
“Oh, cool!” Calvin crowed, dropping to his knees to get a closer look.
Jason noticed he hadn’t bothered to put his jacket back on. “Aren’t you cold?”
“Huh?” Calvin looked up, not really paying attention. “No.” He turned back to the rockets. “They look…different. Did you do something to them?”
“Yeah,” Jason kneeled next to him and launched into an elaborate explanation on his modifications, explaining each aspect of the half dozen rockets. He seemed oblivious to Calvin’s occasional looks of confusion.
“Wait ,” Calvin interrupted, shaking his head. “Are you saying you can blow stuff up?”
“Yeah, but it’s really not too much stronger than a really good firecracker or something. You know – small stuff. Mostly just for show.”
Calvin nodded, seeming unfazed. “So how does this relate to Theta Chi?”
“I was going to direct a couple at their chimney. It’s already pretty damaged, a couple of good hits and the whole thing will just topple – really someone should have had it taken care of a long time ago.”
“That’s why you were on the roof?”
“But…” Calvin looked at him, and barely a foot apart Jason found it more difficult than normal not to just sit and stare. “Why are you doing this?”
Jason grinned, “To get them back for the snowmen – and those bruises. Especially as seeing those bruises are my fault – I was going to send one rocket but now I think I’ll send two. That’ll scare the living daylights out of all of them.”
Rather than looking pleased, Calvin glowered. “You don’t have to get my revenge for me.”
“Look – it’s my fault you have those,” Jason motioned at his face. “Besides – I have a long list of transgressions against Theta Chi. I’ve just never bothered to do anything because it was only stupid small stuff. Now I have a good reason.” He grinned suddenly, “Or you could just say it’s a good excuse to play with my rockets. The latest modifications need testing.”
Calvin was still frowning, but he didn’t offer further protests. “When are you going to do it?”
“Probably around lunchtime tomorrow.”
“After lunch – there’ll be more people in the house.” Calvin looked serious for all of three seconds, before he broke out in what could only be described as a very evil grin.
Jason loved it, and rubbed his hands gleefully. “Good point. Do you want to come over here and launch them with me? Or be closer to the house to see the chaos up close?”
“I think I’ll just come here, and bring my binoculars.”
“Cool.” Jason rose, “Now let’s go back inside – it’s freezing out here.”
Calvin laughed. “I should be heading home anyway – early classes and I’ve still got papers to grade.”
“Me too. Do you student teach a lot of classes?” Jason swung inside, and closed the window after Calvin followed. He dropped onto the couch.
“Most of my own work is independent study,” Calvin shrugged. “So I help teach the freshmen and sophomore art classes to fill up time and get some extra credits in. Even my English classes are mostly independent study now – the only one that’s not is the writing class.”
Jason nodded, “So you’re a double Art and English major?”
“Triple,” Calvin looked embarrassed. “Though it’s pretty easy to manage both Art and Art History. What about you?” he asked.
“Ah…” Jason made himself hold still and not fidget. He’s always been so proud of himself growing up…but the older he got, the harder it was to be regarded normally by his peers. Well, better to lose Calvin now instead of later when it would suck a lot more. “I’m actually working on my MA right now. I finished my BA’s sophomore year. That’s why I help teach so many classes.”
Calvin started, as though he’d just realized something. “I’ve heard of you! My one housemate, Jeff, is always griping about you. You’re the, uh…” he fumbled to a halt.
“I know what they call me,” Jason said with a sigh. “I think most of them are still mad about my blowing up the lounge freshman year. They maintain I did it on purpose, even though officially it’s an accident.”
“You did that?” Calvin gaped. “I remember I went to take a look at the place one night, and I couldn’t figure out how it was done. Man, the guys in my dorm that year wouldn’t shut up about it. You really did that? Did you also start that fire in the cafeteria?”
“Erm…” Jason was torn between being proud and being mortified. “The fire wasn’t me. I just always wound up destroying wherever I was living. And I might have caused some minor damage to one of the labs – though that wasn’t entirely my fault.” He motioned to the apartment, “That’s why I live here. They wanted me out of the way.”
Calvin frowned, “But what about tomorrow? Won’t the rockets get you in trouble?”
“Nah – it’ll just be accident.” He winked, “I’m always miscalculating stuff.”
“I see,” Calvin replied.
They both fell silent. Calvin slowly climbed to his feet and fetched the case holding his tools. “I guess I should get going. I’ll see you tomorrow?”
“Yep,” Jason said, wishing he could think of a reason for Calvin to stay – not that he knew what they’d do, but still. “Want to meet for lunch first?”
“Ah – sure.”
Jason grinned, and he hoped he didn’t look as excited as he felt. “Cool. Then how about at the snack bar? Say 12:30?”
“Okay.” Calvin paused, undecided, then opened the window and climbed out. “Bye.”
“See you later,” Jason watched him go down the stairs and back the way they’d come earlier. “Hope he makes it okay…maybe I should have walked with him…” He shook the thought off, and with a sigh closed the window and headed for his computer – if he focused, he could clear the bulk of his workload and free up time to spend with Calvin.
Assuming Calvin wanted to spend time with him. Jason was still hopeful. At least tomorrow he had lunch and rockets. He couldn’t even remember the last time he’d had someone along to participate in his pranks. Probably the last time he and Marcus had been together, which had been a while back.
He couldn’t wait.
“How many boards would the Mongols hoard if the Mongol hordes got bored?”
Jason looked askance at Calvin, “What?”
Calvin gave him a sheepish smile. “Sorry.”
“What was that?”
“Something stupid I came up with as a kid. I say it when I’m thinking sometimes; I didn’t mean to say it aloud.”
Jason grinned, “How many boards would the Mongols hoard if the Mongol hordes got bored? That is fun to say. Not a very good tongue-twister though.”
“Yeah, that’s why I keep it to myself.” Calvin turned back to his binoculars, cheeks pink.
Jason watched him for a few moments before raising his own binoculars.
“When do you suppose they’ll figure out we did it?” Calvin asked. Through the binoculars they watched the mixture of angry, confused and too hung over to care Theta Chi brothers scramble to figure out and fix whatever was wrong with their chimney.
Or what was left of it anyway. The old brick had blown out just the way Jason had calculated – though he hadn’t counted on a portion of the roof going as well. “I think Jerk Wad #1 just found bits of the rockets.”
“Yeah, I think you’re right…” Calvin frowned. “What’s he doing with it now?”
Jason shrugged. “Dunno. Maybe keeping it from Security and Housing? To take matters into their own hands?”
“Do you think they’ll pin it on you?”
“Nah,” Jason said breezily. “The Theta Creeps aren’t that smart. They’ll probably forget all about it after their weekend booze out.”
Calvin lowered his binoculars. “That was pretty sweet. How do you do it? And where do you get the supplies? I didn’t think it was possible for toy rockets to cause that much damage.”
Jason started laughing. “Marcus and I refined the art of Model Rocket Destruction growing up. Between my father and I, it was no wonder the paramedics knew us all by name. They used to send us Christmas cards…”
“I’m impressed. All the times I almost broke my neck going off ridges and crashing into brooks and my parents never had to call the paramedics. Even the one time when my sled wound up in the tree…”
“If your painting is anything to go by,” Jason winked. “I’d say your wagon and tiger took the brunt of the beatings.”
Calvin’s cheeks went red. “Yeah, Hobbes did need more than a few stitches over the years.” He shot his book bag a quick, guilty glance, then shook his head and lifted his binoculars.
Jason watched him, far more interested in Calvin than in the temper-tantrum Theta Chi was throwing. “So what are you doing the rest of the day?”
Calvin shrugged, not looking at him. “Probably study some, then paint later tonight.”
“Do you like sledding?” Jason asked.
“Sledding?” Calvin couldn’t keep the eagerness from his voice, turning to look at Jason. “Yeah! I used to go to the hill on the other side of Ridge park, until…” he trailed off.
“Until some other guys found the place and took it over.” He looked out unhappily at the snow. “It really was a good hill.”
“There’s a better one about thirty minutes from here, a mile or so past the fairgrounds.”
Calvin shook his head, “Too far of a walk. I generally stick to places nearby.”
“Benefits of a paranoid mother who doesn’t like me to be stuck relying on public transportation when it’s time to be home for important dates.” Jason winked again. “Want to go? I caught up on most of my work last night, so if you’ve got some free time…”
“Uh…sure.” Calvin gave him a quick smile, seeming horribly uncertain as to whether it was okay to be enthusiastic. “I’ll have to go get my things from my room and drop my bag off.”
Jason was putting the tarp over the remaining rockets and stowing his binoculars. “Sure thing. Help me grab my stuff and then we’ll go get yours.”
Barely able to contain his excitement, Jason dashed for the stairs and his room.
Several minutes later they were outside Calvin’s dorm, loading his stuff in the back of Jason’s car.
“Damn,” Calvin said looking the passenger seat. “Forgot to put my book bag away. Gimme a sec?”
“Yeah, sure.” Jason said, still fighting to fit the sled in just so, barely noticing when Calvin ran back toward his room.
Nor did he notice the crunch of in the snow until he heard the new arrivals talking. “Nice bag, loser.”
“Give it back,” Calvin said in his ‘I’m small but I’ll try to take you anyway’ voice. “What are we in, grade school?”
“Yeah, I guess we are.” The speaker was one of the two who had trashed Calvin’s snowmen the other night, but his gaze was fastened on Jason as he turned around. “Only kids play with rockets.”
Jason let out a hiss of dismay.
“You’re just pissed because now Security is going to find all the stuff you’re not supposed to have.” Calvin barely danced back out of the way as a second Theta brother made a grab for him.
The first one ignored them and rifled through the front pocket of Calvin’s book bag, pulling out a paperback and small sketchpad. “What’s this?”
“A book,” Calvin retorted. “I doubt you know how to use it.”
“You’re probably right,” the brother said with a shrug. He dropped it into the slushy muck accumulated at the curb. The sketchbook quickly followed. The he opened the main section of the book bag.
Calvin began to look slightly panicked. “Give it back.”
“Aw…” the brother grinned and looked at his companion. “Look at what we’ve got here.” He pulled out a small, faded and threadbare stuffed tiger. Its plastic eyes were scratched, most of its soft nose worn away.
“GIVE HIM BACK!” Calvin snarled, blindly launching himself at the man holding his book bag and tiger.
Grinning, the Theta dropped the book bag and tossed the tiger to his friend, gleefully getting into a tangle with Calvin.
“Oh, shit…” Jason scrambled to help, cringing inwardly at the idea of getting into a fight. He didn’t do so well with direct violence.
The second Theta didn’t give him a chance to help, and in what seemed like mere seconds Jason found himself struggling just to avoid a broken face.
All of a sudden the pummeling and yanking and knocking against snow and muddy ground ceased, and he looked up to blurrily see why it had stopped. He struggled to sit up.
His vision was blurry – where had his glasses gone? – as he looked up and saw the Thetas being hauled away by campus security. “Shit!” Jason fell back into the snow with a groan. “I’m in such deep shit now.” He turned his head to look for Calvin, who was little more than a blurry ski jacket with a blonde tip. Jason frowned, swearing he could hear Calvin crying.
The officers helped them to their feet, as roughly as possible. “I hope you lot thought this fight was worth it. Jason, I thought you were smarter than this.”
Calvin fought off the burly man helping him and launched himself at the Thetas again. “Give him back to me! Assholes, give him back!” The officer pulled him roughly away and toward a second SUV that had arrived. “Let me go! I want Hobbes!”
Frowning, Jason squinted and looked around in the snow. “Give me a second, Officer?” he smiled politely at the remaining security guard.
The officer glared at him. “A second for what? You’re in enough trouble already, Jason.”
“I need my glasses. I can’t see all that great without them.”
“And yet you think you can find them?”
Jason shook his head, “No. I’ve got a spare set in my car.”
“Glove compartment, in a black case.”
The guard nodded, “Give me your keys.”
Jason handed them over, and waited until the security officer was rifling through his car before rapidly crossing the wrecked field to snatch up the stuffed tiger half buried in the snow. He stuffed it under his parka, ignoring the Thetas glaring at him from inside the SUV. “Can I go with Calvin?” he said when the guard returned with his glasses. “I don’t trust the Theta Creeps.”
“It takes more than one for a fight,” he replied tartly. “I really didn’t think fighting in the street was your style, Jason.”
“It’s not,” Jason muttered.
“Get in the car,” the guard snapped. “And you’d better have a damned good explanation for all this.”
Sighing, Jason obeyed. Climbing into the backseat beside Calvin, he waited until they were moving before opening his parka and quietly handing over the stuffed tiger with a smile, attempting to lighten the gloomy, defeated expression on Calvin’s face. “Hobbes said he didn’t much care to be left in the snow, and that he wanted to see you get in trouble.”
Calvin looked startled, staring from Jason to the tiger and back again. His face had a ‘boys don’t cry’ expression, before he gave Jason a smile that was hesitant but happy and sweet, despite their dire circumstances. Jason had never seen a smile like it. “That sounds like something Hobbes would say.”
Jason was dazzled, and spent the trip to the Dean’s office staring at Calvin, who clung to his tiger like it was all he had to hold onto.
“Somebody, somewhere, loves us very much.” Jason dropped onto his couch, glad to get off his rubber legs.
Calvin remained standing, as if now that he was inside Jason’s apartment, he could not remember how to walk – or even move.
“Seriously. I need to go offer my thanks and a sacrifice to some god, because I didn’t think there was anyway I was getting out of that office without a suspension – or expulsion.”
Instead of commenting, Calvin headed mutely for Jason’s kitchen. Jason listened curiously to the rattling and fumbling, but was too tired and in too much pain to force himself up off the couch.
Calvin reappeared a moment later, sitting next to Jason and handing him some aspirin.
“Thanks,” Jason swallowed the medicine with the glass of water Calvin handed him. “How do you take a beating like that and not say a damned thing? You don’t seem to be in pain.”
“Practice,” Calvin said mildly. “Lots and lots of practice.” He stared at Hobbes, whom he’d propped in the recliner. “I always got harassed in school – from first grade on up.” He shrugged. “You learn how to block the worst of it.”
Jason didn’t know what to say. “Why didn’t anyone ever help you out?”
“Because I was a monster. I still am, really. Susie is the only one I get along with back home. Hobbes…” he paused. “Hobbes was my only friend. And I got into fights even with him sometimes.” Calvin still had not taken his eyes off the tiger, cheeks going pink again.
It was really cute the way he did that. “I can’t imagine you won very often, going up against a tiger.”
Calvin looked at him, startled.
“What?” Jason grinned. “I’ve heard of weirder things than getting into fights with a stuffed animal.” He rolled his eyes, “At least you didn’t help your pet iguana masquerade as private eye. Seriously, it’s no wonder my family thinks I’m mental.”
Calvin’s lips curved in the ghost of a smile. “I bet you didn’t lock yourself in your school locker.”
Jason quirked a brow, “I’m impressed. Let’s see…I bet you never got chewed out by government officials and the local news station for reporting aliens.”
“No, but I’m still living down the noodle incident.”
“The noodle incident?” Jason grinned, eyes bright behind his glasses. “Dare I ask?”
Calvin shook his head, “I really don’t like to talk about it.”
“Fair enough.” Jason yawned and stood up before he could do something stupid. He’d had enough beatings for one day. “Hungry? We can either order pizza or eat the eggplant stroganoff my mother sent me.”
Calvin’s face scrunched up. “Eggplant stroganoff? Please tell me that’s not from ‘101 Ways to use Eggplant’?”
Jason’s eyes bugged out. “Oh. My. God. You mean there’s someone else who’s had to eat that crap?” He dropped back down, hand covering Calvin’s on the couch. “Is your mom a health nut too?”
“No,” Calvin laughed. “Just crazy.”
Jason had only kissed three people in his entire life – two girls and one guy. None of them had gone over real well, so he’d given it up as something else he’d never be good at. Outside of computers, math and causing trouble it didn’t seem like he was good for much. But the smile from the SUV was still fresh in his mind and hearing Calvin laugh was the last straw.
So Jason decided that one more stupid thing in a long line of stupid things really couldn’t make his day – night – much worse, and leaned forward and pressed a quick, shy kiss to the corner of Calvin’s mouth. Full on the lips would have been better, but he was sort of panicky.
“Wha…” Calvin blinked. His mouth opened. Closed. Opened again. “You…did you…?”
Jason pulled away. “Umm…”
“Why did you do that?” Calvin looked completely thrown.
“Because I really really really wanted to?” Jason relaxed some.
Calvin started blinking again. “Oh.”
Feeling brave – stupid? – again, Jason leaned forward and repeated the gesture. The first girl had given him a polite no, the second girl had shoved him, and the one guy had stopped talking to him. Calvin wasn’t doing any of that. Jason took it as a positive sign.
When he pulled away, smiling despite the bruises on his face, Calvin’s entire face was red. “Okay?”
“Su-Susie tried that once. Neither one of us liked it much.”
Jason frowned, “Please don’t tell me a girl kisses better than I do.”
“I don’t know. I’ve only kissed one girl and I just told you we didn’t like it.”
“So…” Jason was confused. “Are you telling me to stop or do it again?”
“Definitely not stop. I dunno. Never done this before. I’m a loser art geek remember? We don’t score a lot unless we sleep with teachers.”
Jason laughed. “You’d still be getting more than us computer nerds.”
Calvin smiled, though his cheeks were still flushed.
“Do you want to sleep over?” Jason asked in a rush. “I mean – you could sleep on the couch. And we could go to breakfast in the morning?”
“Uh-sure.” Calvin bobbed his head as if to emphasize he was agreeing.
“Cool.” Jason bounced up to scrounge up a blanket and pillow and everything before he forgot.
“Do you still want to order pizza?”
Jason let out what sounded like agreement, as he wrested with the contents of his hallway closet.
Calvin punched the search button to find Jason’s portable phone, digging itout of the chair in which Hobbes sat. “Know the number?”
“On the fridge,” Jason said, half-tangled in a blanket. “I need to clean this closet, I think.”
Calvin watched him, amused. “What do you want on your pizza?”
“Pepperoni,” Jason managed, ducking a stray box that had jumped off the shelf to attack him.
Calvin wandered back toward the couch as he ordered, glad to have the distraction of ordering food to keep him from wigging out about other things. Without thinking, his fingers strayed to his lips, and he knew he was probably blushing again but he couldn’t help it. Pizza ordered, he hung up and dropped down onto the couch, staring at Hobbes across the way.
Movement caught the corner of his eye, and he watched as Quincy idly made his way across the living room. The iguana paused to look at Calvin, as if trying to figure out why he was there again. He resumed ambling, slowly climbing up the old recliner. The iguana seemed thoroughly puzzled by the stuffed tiger that had taken his spot, slowly examining the strange item before he seemed to give a sort of shrug and stretched out beside it.